The eternal beauty of the NRL cliche! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
If you grew up watching rugby league television coverage in the 70s and 80s, yours was a diet rich in cliches and tautology. “They were the better team on the day” was a common assessment when broadcasts were concluded. Gems such as “Tiny, diminutive, little Mark Shulman” or “He seems to be favouring a groin injury at the top of his leg,” were so uniquely rugby league that they were read out at the eulogy of commentator Rex Mossop.
And it hasn’t stopped since those heady days.
“It’s a game of two halves”, “It’s not his go”, “whoever scores next will win”, and “I’ve just got to play my best for xxxx and the rest will take care of itself” are regularly trotted out by players and commentators alike.
However, as annoying and/or ludicrous as they are, there’s something to be found in a rugby league cliche for the Parramatta Eels in 2018. Let me take you through a few:
We’re just taking it one week at a time.
It’s not uncommon for coaches to plan their season in blocks of games. There’s the weekly preparation, but goals are set around blocks of four to six rounds. The focus could be on wins, physical preparation, freshening the team mentally – it’s a whole raft of factors determined by the staff.
Whatever planning existed for Parra at the start of the season, you could pretty much bet the house that zero wins from six starts wouldn’t have been considered. That raft of losses and a string of significant injuries would have seen a major re-think.
As a fan, I’m not even looking past the next game. I’m wondering how far ahead the coaches would be planning now.
This is a must-win game
If that cliche wasn’t ringing true after the first month, it was seriously screaming at the team after six rounds. A couple of wins has barely changed that scenario. The Eels remain firmly anchored to the bottom of the ladder and slipping up any week only adds weight to the end of that line.
Resident TCT guru Forty20 gives the team a five game margin of error to qualify for the finals, and form teams such as the Dragons, the Storm and the Warriors await.
For the immediate future, every game is a must-win game.
They’ve come here to play
This seems like the most ridiculous cliche, but how many of us could say that the Eels turned up to play at Brookvale?
That loss was costly, not just in terms of the points differential, but also because Manly could turn out to be a two point opponent for the majority of teams this year. I write this not out of disrespect, but rather fact. No team is currently going through the range of crises as the Sea Eagles.
The Eels need to turn up at, or close to their best every week. They’ve already used their “don’t turn up” card for the season.
We need to play for the full 80 minutes
This implies playing out the full 40 minutes of each half. I would argue that the psychological damage of a soft try to Penrith’s Waqa Blake derailed the start of the Eels season. As evidence, see the number of times it was referenced by Eels players during the run of losses.
What it came down to, was how a moment of switching off can impact both a single game and a team’s confidence. We saw a similar moment when a poor read by the Eels defence allowed Eisenhuth to stroll through untouched last Sunday. Fortunately, the team were in a better head space and fought back.
The Eels need to ensure that they don’t have moments of making the job harder for themselves. They need to be focussed for the full 80 minutes.
The forwards laid the platform
Fair cop – I’ve used this cliche myself. But it’s true. It’s what forwards do.
The Eels pack isn’t the biggest, but they proved last year that the size of the fight in the dog is just as important as the size of the dog in the fight.
The team have crossed for 11 tries in the past two weeks after only scoring 9 tries in the previous six weeks. They’ve done so on the back of a forward pack getting their job done.
A season ending injury to Tony Williams removes more size from the pack. The fellas will likely be competing out of their weight division most weeks, but it’s up to them to lay that platform.
They need to hold on to the pill
During their run of losses, the Eels gifted their opponents many more opportunities with the ball in all but one of those matches. The statistic is telling.
Round 1: Panthers get 6 extra sets
Round 2: Manly have 13 extra sets
Round 3: Cronulla receive 6 extra sets
Round 4: Tigers given 10 extra sets
Round 5: Parra manage 6 more sets than Panthers in 6 point loss
Round 6: Raiders gifted 6 extra sets
Round 7: Parra secure 8 more sets than Manly
Round 8: Parra achieve 5 more sets than the Tigers
The pattern is obvious. Better discipline and ball security goes a long way towards achieving the victory. Hold on to the bloody pill!
Full credit to the boys
What better way to round out the cliches than with the greatest of them all!
The players are the ones who have to get the job done. Media commentators recently tried to create dramas within the Parramatta group which didn’t exist. However, there was no doubt that the execution of attacking plays just wasn’t clicking for the Eels as a team.
Players have had to find that support for each other out on the field. They needed to be able to look each other in the eye and know that they’ve done their best. Fortunately, they seem to have re-discovered their identity as a team.
When any team plays as a unit, not as a group of individuals, they place themselves in a better position to win matches. It’s when full credit goes to everyone – to the boys. If the Eels keep playing as they did on Sunday, I won’t care how often credit is attributed to all.
And as the Eels line up each week from here on in, just remember:
“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing!”